Juan Francisco Estrada, looking to shake off the rust of an 18-month layoff, thought he would enter nothing more than a tune-up fight with Argi Cortes on Saturday night to prepare for a highly anticipated third fight with his rival. Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
Although Estrada retained the lineal junior bantamweight championship for the fourth time, winning a unanimous decision (115-112, 115-112 and 114-113), it was not an easy fight.
🏆 CHAMPION 🇲🇽 #EstradaCortes pic.twitter.com/rHsOKm7D3Q
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) September 4, 2022
Cortes, in his first fight against a recognizable opponent, gave Estrada an extremely difficult fight over 12 action-packed rounds in the main event of the Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN at the Centro de Usos Múltiples in Estrada’s hometown, Hermosillo. , Mexico.
During Estrada’s post-fight interview, DAZN announced that the third fight with Gonzalez was scheduled for December 3 at a location to be determined.
Before facing fellow Mexican Cortes, Estrada, who was boxing at home for the first time in three years, said he was injury-free before fighting for the first time in six years. He needed all the help he could get.
“I was really surprised. I didn’t expect him to come out that strong,” Estrada said of Cortes through an interpreter. He is a great fighter, but the champion is the champion.
“I trained at altitude for the last three months, that helped me and I will continue to do so. He is a great fighter, but I took the victory”.
Cortes (23-3-2, 10 KOs), 27, often found a home for his right hand and also absorbed some tremendous punches from Estrada (43-3, 28 KOs), 32, as they battled round after round. round. .
Because open scoring was employed in the fight, which was also for Estrada’s Ring magazine title and WBC “franchise” belt, the fighters knew the fight was a split draw after the fourth round.
As the all-out action continued, Estrada’s face began to swell and Cortes gave him a bloody nose in the sixth round. Cortes closed out the round by landing a stiff left hook.
Estrada came back with a strong seventh round as he landed hard left and right and backed up Cortes. He had a great round and with about 50 seconds left he dropped Cortes to one knee with a left hook to the body that was followed by a stiff right.
Cortes, who is trained by Hall of Famer Nacho Beristain, beat the count and Estrada tried to finish him off, but Cortes showed enormous resistance.
After the eighth round, the scores were announced again and Estrada was up 77-74 on two scorecards and Cortes was up 77-74 on one.
But Estrada, who was the fresher fighter in the final stretch, continued to land the strongest punches with more consistency to close the clear victory, but in which he received much more punishment than anyone expected.
He will now move on to fight three with Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs), 35, the legendary four-division champion from Nicaragua and a former pound-for-pound king.
Before facing Cortés, Estrada’s last fight came in March 2021 in Dallas, where he outpointed González by controversial split decision in a fight of the year candidate to unify his WBC title with González’s WBA belt. in their rematch they evened their series 1-1. Estrada later vacated the WBC belt and accepted the organization’s “franchise” title and last month he was stripped by the WBA for failing to make a mandatory defense against secondary champion Joshua Franco.
Whatever belts or status is at stake, the Estrada-Gonzalez rubber match is the biggest fight in the division. In his first action fight of 2012, Gonzalez won a unanimous decision to retain the WBA junior flyweight title.
The third fight between these likely Hall of Famers was supposed to take place last October, but was postponed when Gonzalez contracted covid-19. It was then scheduled for March 5 in San Diego, but was put on hold six weeks early when Estrada pulled out after contracting Covid-19. González easily outclassed replacement opponent and WBC flyweight champion Julio César Martínez. Estrada could have gone to the fight with Gonzalez, but he wanted a tune-up fight.
“That’s why I was eager to finish this fight,” Estrada said. “I wanted to make sure that I looked good and that I had no injuries. I’m a little bruised but I did what I had to do. The work and conditioning I did for three months is exactly what I needed to do after the break and now I can announce the third fight with ‘Chocolatito’ the first week of December.
“We look forward to that fight. I will be ready for that date. We are waiting for the trilogy.”